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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Exploring Dauphin Island

Yesterday promised to be a beautiful day, so we finally took to the Mobile Bay Ferry and spent the day on Dauphin Island. Dauphin Island is a barrier island that sits at the junction of Mobile Bay, Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.

The ferry runs between Fort Morgan which is just west of Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island which is south of Mobile. It is a 30 minute ride and it sure beat driving all the way around the bay to the island. If we drove from our campground to the Island, it would be a 65.5 mile drive, one way.

Upon arriving on the island, we tried to find the Visitors Center. We did find it, but unfortunately, it was closed. I couldn't believe it - it is only open Wednesday through Saturday. But, the island is small, so we figured we could find our way around easily. There were really only two things we wanted to see; the Estuarium and Fort Gaines.

Dauphin Island was first mapped by Spanish explorers in 1513, but the first French settlers gave it its name after the heir of Louis XIV. In 1718 the island was the capitol of the Louisiana Territory. Both the Spanish and the French manned forts that guarded the bay, but it was the Americans who captured it in 1813 and made the first attempt to construct a permanent fort here.

Fort Gaines was established in 1821, but construction wasn't completed until the beginning of the Civil War. It is the site of the Battle of Mobile Bay and was named in honor of General Edmund Pendleton Gaines. One of General Gaines' claims to fame is that he helped capture Aaron Burr in 1807. It was during the Battle of Mobile that the oft-quoted "Damn the torpedoes - full speed ahead" was given by Admiral David Farragut. That battle resulted in the capture of the fort as well as two other forts and the Confederate Fleet by Union forces.

The site of the Estuarium is the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. The Estuarium allows you to "walk through" the various water worlds of the Mobile Bay area. Mobile Bay is an estuary, which is a body of water where fresh and salt waters meet.
We were able to see typical sea life such as fish, turtles, crabs, snakes, etc., as well as sea life you don't usually get to see - especially this side of a dinner plate! I got pictures of a shrimp, octopus (they are actually very small creatures, nothing like the cartoons at all!), moon fish, crawfish, starfish, and a green moray (very ugly). You can see all of their pictures at our Webshots site. It is amazing how many different creatures live in the waters around us. It was a very interesting exhibition.

All in all, a pretty good day. We ended it by having dinner at an all-you-can eat shrimp place! Yes, it was quite easy to eat shrimp after taking a picture of one.

This day also pretty much ends our time here in southern Alabama as we are leaving on Friday. It has been a wonderful winter here and we have made some very good friends. We are looking forward to the next leg of our trip. The next six weeks will find us in Atlanta
, Fort Benning (YAY!!!!!), Savannah, Charleston, Williamsburg, Ocean City, MD, and finally, York, PA on June 1.

We hope to have more adventures to share over the next few weeks. Please keep in touch. Until the next time . . .

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